To create your own version of health opportunism, consider the following.
1. Do you need to check in with a doctor or physical therapist?
Since you haven’t exercised in a while, it might be a good idea to touch base with your health care provider to address any aches, pains or other health conditions that need attention. Sometimes pain or limited capabilities can guide you directly to the best place to start. If you’re hurting or feel weak in specific ways, a few visits with a physical therapist can help you gain strength and put you in a healthy position to build up to any other kind of exercise you want to try.
2. What opportunities can you find in your current environment to strengthen your body?
Make a list of every exercise you can think of that you’ve ever enjoyed—even to a small degree. Your ideas are sure to be far better than mine, but here are a few to get you started:
- Classes and gyms are great. Add them to the list, but don’t get stuck on them.
- Include specific exercises within those classes that you enjoyed and could do while you wait for the microwave to ding.
- Consider what’s already in your home. Do stairs feel like a challenge? How do you feel about stretching on the floor? Have you ever done a push-up on your kitchen counter? Do the closets or basement need spring cleaning? Any interest in painting a room or mending a fence? How long can you hold a plank position without sagging?
- How does walking sound—either solo, with a podcast or with a friend?
Keep this list rolling. Your options are endless.
3. What realistically fits in your schedule?
Does taking an hour to go to the gym feel like “me” time you’d love to have, or would you rather try a series of mini-workouts throughout your days? Start with something that won’t put a strain on your time.
4. What are you most curious to try?
Of the activities that made the cut above, which one feels most interesting or accessible? By choosing one, you’re not committing to doing it forever—you’re just picking a place to start. Choose something you might genuinely like.
5. When and how can it happen?
In the spirit of an opportunist, when is the most obvious time of day (or week) that you could do this new activity? Identify anything standing in the way, and think about how to remove those obstacles. Get specific about how you can remember to try it. Do you need guidance or support from a friend or trainer?
6. What will you do if you don’t like it or can’t get yourself to take action?
In the beginning, it’s really important that you enjoy the changes you’re trying to make so you can achieve them consistently. They should make you feel strong or clear-headed or peaceful—at least a little bit. Experiment with different activities, from a single set of squats at lunchtime to a class you’ve never tried before. If you don’t like them, move on and try something else until you find an activity that feels good.
If you’re motivated by big goals, by all means, set them. But if you think you might be better served by the confidence that comes with building one sustainable, healthy habit at a time, start with something small and gratifying. You can always keep building from there.
This plan is yours, Mom Jeans. What’s the first bit of progress you’re craving? Find whatever version of that craving you can manage, and you’ve got yourself a starting place.
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“Hey, Health Coach” is for informational purposes only and should not substitute for professional psychological or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your personal situation, health or medical condition.
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